Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot, like the book, focuses on the fairly calm, intelligent and well-respected Dr. Jekyll, a London physician who struggles to control his horrific and fiendish evil side named Mr. Edward Hyde, the demon he's created from a serum concocted in his laboratory. The battle between Jekyll's good and bad sides and the victims that get caught in that clash, while Jekyll's acquaintances attempt to unravel the mystery of just who is Edward Hyde, form the basis of this engaging tale.
Stevenson's novella was more of a gothic mystery than a horror story and Hatcher's script uses the same themes and structure of the book, which also includes having multiple narrators and perspectives. It begins, like Stevenson's story, with the persona of Mr. Hyde having already been unleashed, which may prove confusing for anyone who isn't already familiar with this famous tale. Hatcher uses the theatrical device of having several cast members portray Hyde throughout the show, which on one hand is an ingenious way to be able to show both Jekyll and Hyde on stage at the same time and, by having more than one actor play Hyde, to demonstrate that we all have a savage side inside of us. But, since Hatcher only uses one of the four actors to portray Hyde for about 75% of the play, along with the somewhat convoluted plot, it can also prove confusing to anyone who isn't paying close attention.
Fortunately, director Chris Hamby has found an exceptional cast who do a very good job in portraying the multiple characters in the show, including the foursome who play Hyde. Hamby elicits refined dramatic performances from the cast with them never crossing the border into unintentional humor. Hamby also doesn't shy away from the violence and gore of the pieceit is more implied than explicit. Hamby also masterfully uses the combination of Dori Brown's effective two-layer set and Jeff A. Davis' lighting, which uses deep hues of red and blue throughout to deliver some dramatic stage images, and Landis Maren York's period-centric costumes to derive a rich gothic feel and foreboding atmosphere in the entire production. Wesley Skinner has composed an evocative original score for this production, which uses live cello and violin accompaniment. The score works best for the underscoring in the second act that plays up the battle between Hyde and Jekyll, as a few times in act one it somewhat gets in the way of a few scene changes that seem a bit long due. Shortening these musical interludes would seem to tighten the pace which drags a bit in the first act.
Angel Lopez instills Jekyll with an air of refinement, intelligence and calm, yet as the plot thickens, we see from Lopez's nuanced performance the conflicted struggle underneath his façade. As the main Hyde, Corey Gimlin evokes the appropriate level of menace and power, though the scenes he shares with Elizabeth Peterson, who exquisitely plays the hotel chambermaid Elizabeth Jelkes, an original character that Hatcher added to the story, are infused with a deep sense of romance which works well to give nuance and layers to Hyde and show that there is a somewhat lighter side to this dangerous man. In supporting parts, Shandi Ilyse, Brandon Brown, Clara Bentz, and William Rippenkroeger are all exceptional and create a wide range of characters with ease.
While Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation doesn't have much new to add to Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, which is a keen observation on the dark and light sides of human nature, with a talented cast, excellent direction and creative elements, TheaterWorks' production proves that this well known tale still makes for an entirely entertaining theatrical endeavor.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, through October 28th, 2018, at TheaterWorks, 8355 West Peoria Avenue in Peoria AZ. Tickets can be ordered at http://theaterworks.org or by calling 623-815-7930.
Director: Chris Hamby